Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can You Learn To Be Happy?


Can you learn to be Happy?


Are we born with an innate ability to be happy? Or is it something we mirror from those who influenced our early lives? With all the talk of chemical imbalances and genetic predispositions to mental disorders, many of us have begun to think that being happy is like being tall or blonde, you are born with it or you are not. While some people do have biologic conditions that make it difficult to control their feelings, I believe most of us suffer from ‘group think’; our environment, the people we associate with, and our self-talk that comes from it, have made us feel that stress, depression and unhappiness is the norm. That simply is not the case.


If you have been reading this blog or the newspaper column my partner and I wrote for the Independent Gay News years ago you are familiar with my background. I am a retired dentist, raised in an observant Jewish home of Holocaust survivor parents, came out of the closet later in life, and worked with non-profits in South Florida for about 8 years. The sum of me is that I have had therapy, suffered depression, survived cancer, raised a great son, and now am in a fantastic relationship with the man of my dreams, Dr. Grover Lawlis.  I add this to impress upon you that I have experienced the spectrum of life, death, separation, and joy.


Along the way I have picked up some nuggets, some from the therapist’s couch, some from the hard knocks of life, some from my friends, and of course my resident psychiatrist, Grove. Here are the three BIG ONES that guide my life:



Happiness - You have to find both meaning and pleasure


Creating my day-The day awaits


Breathing – Waiting to Inhale




            Why do we want to be happy? Aristotle believed that we pursue happiness because it is in our nature to do so. When the answer to any question is “because it will make me happy” nothing can challenge the validity and finality of the answer. Dr Tal Ben-Shahar defines happiness as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning. A happy person enjoys positive emotions while perceiving his or her life as purposeful.” This definition does not pertain to one moment, but a generalized snapshot of a person’s whole.


When we find both Meaning and Pleasure we see happiness as something within us rather than something to attain. Pleasure is something we feel good or happy about now. Meaning is a future benefit that gives us happiness. When we find our lives with Meaning and Pleasure and practice it, we begin to live in happiness.


Creating My Day

            I’ve quoted Dr. Joe Dispenza's comments on creating his day from the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know? In response to the numerous requests, the following is the transcript of that part of the interview.

"I wake up in the morning and I consciously create my day the way I want it to happen. Now sometimes, because my mind is examining all the things that I need to get done, it takes me a little bit to settle down and get to the point of where I'm actually intentionally creating my day. But here's the thing: When I create my day and out of nowhere little things happen that are so unexplainable, I know that they are the process or the result of my creation. And the more I do that, the more I build a neural net in my brain that I accept that that's possible. (This) gives me the power and the incentive to do it the next day.

"So if we're consciously designing our destiny, and if we're consciously from a spiritual standpoint throwing in with the idea that our thoughts can affect our reality or affect our life -- because reality equals life -- then I have this little pact that I have when I create my day. I say, 'I'm taking this time to create my day and I'm infecting the quantum field. Now if (it) is in fact the observer's watching me the whole time that I'm doing this and there is a spiritual aspect to myself, then show me a sign today that you paid attention to any one of these things that I created, and bring them in a way that I won't expect, so I'm as surprised at my ability to be able to experience these things. And make it so that I have no doubt that it's come from you,'


Breathing – Waiting to Inhale

Alan Hymes, M.D., has said in Science of Breath that it is through our lower lungs that the most oxygen can be circulated into the bloodstream. By holding tension, we constrict the lower lungs and subsequently breathe mostly in our upper lungs, which aren't able to take in as much air. So, we have to work harder and faster with each breath. This rapid breathing puts the body on alert, firing up the nervous system to think that there is an emergency, moving the body into a state of stress. And this is happening all the time! This is the plight of living in our modern, urban world. The stress and stimulus of our lives affects the breath, which puts strain on the body, leading to burnout, depression, and even illness. 

So, let's practice a way of breathing that will create more flexibility in your diaphragm and belly. This will maximize your oxygen intake and allow the body to relax. Sit comfortably and take a few minutes to go within. Listen to your natural breath and let your belly relax with each breath. When you are ready, breathe out and exhale fully. You should notice that your belly goes inward towards your spine. Then let your diaphragm drop down towards your pelvis and feel the air pour in. You should notice that your belly expands and gets bigger. I suggest you breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. This is a great, general way to breathe, good for anything—working out, any cardio-vascular activity, as well as walking, cooking, hanging out. Take about fifteen minutes for this and try to do it at least three times a week. If you are having trouble feeling this in-and-out motion of the belly, then lie on your back or stomach and try it. Keep practicing this until it becomes a new habit, second nature. 


Finally, I have been asked many times what supplements or sleeping pills I take. I have moved away from the multi vitamin route and now just take a strong anti-oxidant and an Omega 3-6-9. The following links are the products that Grove and I now use, and I have to be honest, they do work.



Have a peaceful week


Nate Klarfeld







1 comment:

  1. Honey, I just had to see what you are up to. I greatly enjoyed the blog. It reminded me to stop, slow down, and smell the flowers, and that today is Shabbat and a time to let go of work and experience some peace and renewal,
    Shabbat Shalom to everyone,
    Peace, Love, and Hope,